Date of Original Version
Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics, Ruth F. Chadwick, ed. Academic Press, 1997
Abstract or Table of Contents
Gun control assumes myriad guises among over 20,000 current laws, the en d less array of proposed legislation at all levels of government, evolving case law. administrative policies, consumer-product safety regulations, and novel liability and litigation stratagems. The topic embraces a wide variety of arguable means and social ends and, therefore, entails a fair maze of issues. Any instant case of gun control policy serves, in effect, as a rabbit hole leading to an underlying warren of issues: questions of fact, questions of value, and questions of how to try the facts and weigh the values at stake. Consequently, gun control is a matter which few can count themselves for or against simpliciter, notwithstanding the hard and fast battle lines drawn by partisans on either side of the nominal issue. Indeed, the controversy over gun control has been called a 'culture war,' because it evokes impassioned conflict amongst people's deepest sensibilities and convictions about how best to secure human life and limb, individual liberty, social order, or an appropriate balance. So construed, the very controversy over gun control in the United States has few riv a ls as a potential threat to that very social order or as a challenge to our collective ability to give both the factual disputes and the competing values at stake a fair hearing and trial.